This was written for the #whimword prompt on Twitter. The word was "mirror".
I avoid my reflection now. It’s amazing how hard it was to break the habit. You don’t realise how much you look at yourself until something makes you want to stop. At first, I forced myself to keep looking – to stare for a full five minutes at a time, directly at my own face. To get used to it. To accept it. Except it’s not really my face anymore. It’s a rough approximation. They did what they could, but that’s the best I can ever hope for. In the early days, when I was still in a fug of painkillers and tranquilisers, I imagined I’d get one of those transplants. I could be a whole new me. I could start over.
I don’t keep mirrors in my house anymore. I try not to look in windows when I go outside, which is rarely. I keep the blinds drawn. I never touch my own skin. That one was easier to master. I made the mistake of doing it the first time they took the dressings off after the accident, and it upset me so much, I never wanted to do it again. It was like cracked clay. Like I wasn’t touching my own skin at all. I couldn’t even feel it. I would have cried if I could. Now I know better. If I try hard enough, I don’t have to be reminded. It doesn’t hurt anymore. If I stay away from my own face, I hardly have to think about it at all.
People stare. I know they do, even though I keep my gaze down as much as I can. If I don’t look at them, I can pretend they’re not doing it: mothers shielding their children’s eyes. Teenagers competing with each other to see who can look the longest. Grown men recoiling. I don’t blame them or resent them. They can’t help it. It’s human nature. If I saw someone like me, I’d do the same, even now. I’d forget for second and gawk in nauseated wonder, just like them.
It’s why I stay indoors most of the time. There’s a nice woman who comes to cut my hair. She knows not to bring a mirror and she doesn’t make small talk. A guy comes to take care of the garden once a month or so. I don’t even have to speak to him. There’s an agency. I pay them through their website and they send him on over, no questions asked. I order my groceries online, too. It’s ok, really. Life’s a lot easier for a shut-in nowadays.
My dreams are always the same. I’m surrounded by reflective surfaces – mirrors, windows, glittering metal, even spoons – and in all of them, I can see my own face staring out. My old face. Perfect. But then there’s that familiar blinding light, and it all goes away. I wake up and inevitably, I relive it all, and then I’m glad, at least, that I got rid of all the mirrors.
While you're here, check out my Unbound page and pledge to pre-order a great book. Abernathy is Scandinavian noir meets Fargo.